Murray's growing pains bring early exit

As Andy Murray can confirm, growing up is hard to do. The 19-year-old Scot was well placed to claim a significant victory here yesterday when his growing body failed him once again.

Murray led Gaël Monfils, another of the game's most promising teenagers, by two sets to one in the first round of the French Open before an injury to his lower back scuppered his chances of beating the No 25 seed. Monfils, who had lost when they met in Hamburg a fortnight ago, won 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 in three hours and 42 minutes.

The British No 2 was serving at 5-2 in the second set tie-break when he felt his back go. He won both the tie-break and the third set but called for the trainer as the problem worsened. By the end he was serving well below full pace and struggled whenever stretching to play a groundstroke.

"My back feels really tight and tired," Murray said afterwards. "There was no strength there. When I was moving wide I just couldn't do it. I felt as though my back was going to collapse all the time." Even so, it was a match - played in squally showers and a bitingly cold wind - that Murray felt he should have won quite comfortably. He led 3-0 in the first set but then lost five games in a row.

Despite his back problem, the Scot won the third set at a canter as a nervous Monfils imploded. When the Parisian started querying line calls - "I was a little bit disappointed with him," Murray said later - even his home crowd started to jeer. Murray won the first game of the fourth set but lost 12 of the next 14 as his back quickly deteriorated.

There had been some splendid tennis in the second set. Monfils, eight months older than Murray, hit some thunderous forehands and retrieved numerous lost causes thanks to his long reach and speed around the court. Murray had to be at his inventive best, varying the pace and playing some delightful drop shots.

However, losing matches from a winning position because of physical problems has become an all too familiar soundtrack to Murray's life story in the last year. Cramp was a key factor in his defeats to Thomas Johansson at Queen's, David Nalbandian at Wimbledon and Jean-René Lisnard in Monte Carlo. In March he suffered an ankle injury while losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in Miami.

Murray has consulted a German doctor, who says the root of his problems is the fact that he is still growing. The cramping in particular might be caused by the fact that the lower part of his spine is still growing.

"The doctor said that practising in Spain a lot and playing on clay was why I hadn't fully grown," Murray said. "The ball bounces really high all the time and there's a lot of lunging, which takes its toll on the back. This is my sixth or seventh week on clay. The long rallies today didn't help either." He added: "It's really difficult to get yourself in the best shape until you stop growing because you can get injuries. Obviously when you have a slight weakness in your lower back because you're still growing you can't push too hard or you'll hurt yourself.

"I hope I'm going to stop growing at the end of this year so I can really get myself in my best shape. I'm just over 6ft 2in now. That's a pretty good height for a tennis player." Murray does not expect the injury to affect his grass-court campaign, which is due to begin at Queen's the week after next. "The grass is pretty soft so it doesn't put too much strain on your body. I think I've got enough time to see the physio, get a lot of massage and do some exercises."

Andy Roddick, the men's No 5 seed, and Nadia Petrova, the women's No 3 seed, were also in the wars. Roddick aggravated an ankle injury and retired when two sets down to Alberto Martin, and Petrova, one of the year's form players, won only four games against Akiko Morigami.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending women's champion, beat Maret Ani 6-3, 6-0, while Martina Hingis, playing her first match here for five years, beat Lisa Raymond, 6-2, 6-2.

Brits in Paris: How they fared

Tim Henman

First round: beat Kenneth Carlsen (Den) 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on Sunday.

Second round: v Dmitri Tursunov (Rus), today.

Andy Murray

First round: Britain's No 2, hampered by a back injury, lost to Gaël Monfils (Fr) 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 yesterday.

Greg Rusedski

First round: lost to Paul Capdeville (Chile) 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-7 on Monday.

Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home